Yes, Ladra is back. I'm preparing a few posts on things going on in Hialeah, Miami Lakes, the county, Homestead and elsewhere. (More on that later).
Ladra has been absent for a while because, let's say I've been distracted. In addition to having to work on my actual paying job in social media and media consulting, a group of friends and I embarked on a new project, a new avenue to provide information for the people of Hialeah, who sorely need it.
I realized that the blog wasn't getting to everyone. Certainly not to the over 55 residents who vote and read mostly in Spanish, and hardly online. So this newspaper -- which will cover the city council and politics, sure, but also community events, school news, the business community and more -- was born.
And it's been a hard labor. Not just because we are learning as we go along -- and the second issue will look a lot better than the first. But because while Ladra's critics are constantly challenging her to be impartial, they won't let me when I try.
Here is the English version of the first column published in the inaugural Dec. 16 edition.
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. But I didn’t think it would be this hard.
When a group of friends and I decided that we would publish a newspaper in Spanish to counter the misinformation fed to the residents of Hialeah, we realized there would be some resistance. Mostly from those who do not want information to flow freely.
But we did not realize it would manifest itself in censorship and lack of transparency that is a staple of dictatorial regimes from which our families fled.
It is perfectly natural for politicians, elected officials and high-paid government types to be wary of journalists and bloggers who expose them as they buy votes with pancakes and collect absentee ballots from viejitos who don’t know who is running for what. And while this is my first column as editor of La Voz de Hialeah, I have grown into this position through my blog, Political Cortadito, in which I have written about those things already. I admit I have been critical of the city administration and elected officials – in my sarcastic, Cuban-American smart ass style. While well-received by many residents and city employees, the blog has become a thorn in the side for the powers that be.
I understand the discomfort. But I have every right to question their methods, intentions and actions. Perhaps even an obligation. After all, my parents left Cuba to make sure I grew up and lived in a country where freedom of expression and freedom of the press was not only guaranteed, but taken for granted. And if I see something wrong, it is my duty to them and to us all to point it out. Sometimes, that can be seen as impartial. And sometimes it is. The criticism cuts both ways and when Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez and the Seguro Que Yes city council call me biased, they are sometimes right. I am proudly biased because my slant is derived through the study of public documents, knowledge of historical reference and luck for inside information. And bias has its place. Like in these two [editorial/opinion] pages of La Voz de Hialeah. All bias is welcome here. Not just the bias from one side. And so I invite the mayor and city officials to write letters or guest columns for these pages.
But impartial information also has a place. Like on the other 14 pages. Like in the story about the opening of LA Fitness. Most people would see that as a positive story for Hialeah. But what is not in the article is that I was asked to leave the event by someone with the facility, most likely at the behest of the mayor or one of his lap dogs. On another day, the spokesman for the police department refused to send me a press release that had gone out to other media about the arrest of some juveniles after a smash and grab at Palm Springs Mile.
While criticism is important and, even, necessary to guarantee democracy, unbiased news and information can be more vital to a community. Especially one that is lacking it. La Voz de Hialeah was created in the void of such a beacon. And its aim is to cover the city in all its glory and beauty and cultural richness, not just its dirty little secrets. There is room for both and we hope that we will be allowed to public events so that we can take the images and information to the homes of the people.
Perhaps it will only take a little time, and a few editions of La Voz de Hialeah, for the mayor and other discomforted city officials to realize that we are here to cover both sides of the coin.
And that we are here to stay.